Would you like to hear about some fabulous mystery books that are set in wine country? What is it about books that encourage deep connections with readers? Are you curious about Wisconsin wines? Why are the state’s wine region a beautiful place to visit?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Joy Ann Ribar, author of the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
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I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.
I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?
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Three listeners are going to win a personally signed copy of Joy Ann Ribar’s fabulous mystery books set in wine country.
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To qualify, all you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you’d like to win a copy.. I’ll select the winner randomly from those who participate.
- Why did Joy decide to start writing mystery novels after retiring from teaching?
- What have been the best and worst moments of Joy’s writing career so far?
- What is it about books that encourage deep connections with readers?
- How did community theatre lead to Joy’s love for the wine world?
- What is a cozy mystery?
- Why are small towns the perfect setting for a cozy mystery?
- How did Agatha Christie pave the way for the next generation of women writers?
- How does Joy navigate the dark world of mystery writing research?
- What wine-themed murders might Joy include in her upcoming books?
- What is Joy’s Deep Lakes cozy mystery series about?
- How does the lead character, Frankie Champagne’s, winery evolve over the series?
- What’s the climate like in Wisconsin?
- What are the key hallmarks of Wisconsin winemaking?
- Which innovative ways have winemakers found for dealing with troublesome starlings?
- I loved learning about what differentiates a cozy mystery from other types of mysteries. Who knew there were so many sub-genres? I love that Joy’s novels are set in wine country.
- I didn’t know much about Wisconsin wines until I spoke to Joy. Now I’m curious to try them, and more so to visit such a beautiful state.
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Until you publish a book, you don’t realize the magical connection you can have with readers. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
It was very hard for women to break into the mystery genre before Agatha Christie. - Joy Ann Ribar Click to tweet
I thought I’d always like sweet wine, but my palate has evolved over 10 years of wine tasting. - Joy Ann Ribar Click to tweet
About Joy Ann Ribar
Joy Ann Ribar pens the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series at home in central Wisconsin. Joy’s life history is a cocktail of careers, including news reporter, paralegal, English educator, and college writing instructor. Her hobbies include baking, exploring the outdoors, and wine research. Joy infuses this mixture into her main character, Frankie Champagne, adding a special blend of sass and humour. Her writing is inspired by Wisconsin’s four distinct seasons, natural beauty, and kind-hearted, but sometimes quirky, people.
Joy holds a BA in Journalism from UW-Madison and an MS in Education from UW-Oshkosh. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Blackbird Writers, and Wisconsin Writers Association. Joy and her husband, John, someday plan to sell their house, buy an RV, and travel around the U.S. spreading good cheer and hygge!
Joy is currently working on the next mystery in the Deep Lakes Cozy series: Deep Dire Harvest, coming in 2022.
- Connect with Joy Ann Ribar
- Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication
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- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 102: Nova Scotia’s Secret Star Wine Power with Benjamin Bridge’s Jean Benoit Deslauriers
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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Joy Ann Ribar 0:00
Here in Wisconsin, white variety grapes do a lot better because we have a tendency toward acidity. We have red varieties too. But we can’t grow anything like a Pinot. We don’t grow Chardonnay. It’s all cold climate.
Natalie MacLean 0:14
You think of Wisconsin, you think of Milwaukee beer, not so much wines. But how many wineries are there today in Wisconsin?
Joy Ann Ribar 0:20
There are about 100. It’s a growing industry.
Natalie MacLean 0:26
It’s the Midwest. Wisconsin. You border Minnesota to Great Lake Superior in Michigan. Ontario borders Superior but they don’t have a land border. So it’s going to be a cool climate for sure with that kind of terroir or lakes and so on.
Joy Ann Ribar 0:41
Natalie MacLean 0:49
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Oh, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 192. Would you like to hear about some fabulous mystery books that are set in wine country? What is it about books that encourage such deep connections with readers? Are you curious about Wisconsin wines? And why is the state’s wine regions such a beautiful place to visit? You’ll hear those tips and stories in my chat with Joy Ribar, the author of cozy mystery novels set in wine country. Now on a personal note before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. Memoirs and novels share the literary device known as tropes. These are plot elements that capture the gist of the book. For example, popular tropes in mysteries include a body discovered at the beginning of the story that everyone has to sort of figure out how did that happen, or everyone’s trapped in the same house as they figure out who done it. Romance novel tropes include enemies to lovers and the meet cute when two strangers have an accidental, perhaps awkward meeting at the beginning of the story. And of course, they eventually become lovers. The tropes in my memoir include second chance love, career disaster and recovery, and drawing on inner strength to battle internal and external demons. The feedback so far from beta readers is that I’ve played on these tropes with some unusual twists. Yay. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/192. This is also where I share behind the scenes stories of the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know that you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at [email protected] NatalieMacLean.com. Oh, okay. On with the show.
Natalie MacLean 3:45
Before I introduce our guest, let me say that three of you in the US or Canada, she’s so generous, is going to win a personally signed copy of one of her terrific mystery novels set in wine country. All you have to do is email me at NatalieMaclean.com and tell me you want to win a copy. All right, here we go. Back to our guest. Joy Ann Ribar writes the deep lakes cosy mystery series of novels based on the character Frankie Champagne. Love it. A 40 something year old woman who owns Bubble and bBake which is a bakery by day in a wine lounge by night in the mythical tourist haven of Deep Lakes, a small town in Wisconsin. Joy herself lives in Wisconsin and loves to both bake and drink wine. She doesn’t bake the wine, she bakes and then, comma, she drinks wine. Anyway. She also had a cocktail of careers, which is so fascinating newspaper reporter paralegal college writing instructor now novelist. Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Science and Education from the University of Wisconsin. She has won numerous awards for her writing. And she joins us here now from her home in Wisconsin. Welcome Joy. We’re so glad You’re here.
Joy Ann Ribar 5:00
Thank you for having me, Natalie. Wow, that was a whole litany of things. And I’m glad to be here.
Natalie MacLean 5:06
Yes, well, you’ve been busy. That’s awesome. I just so jazzed about this, because we’ve never talked to a mystery writer or a fiction writer for that matter. But you’ve got the wine angles so you’re here. So Joy tell us the exact moment when you realized you wanted to be a writer, especially a mystery writer.
Joy Ann Ribar 5:23
Okay, well, I’m a retired English teacher. And I taught writing for about 20 years. Taught a lot of creative writing classes. And being a teacher, you have a lot of time to prepare lessons and to prepare writing prompts for your students, and then to read their work. So you don’t have a lot of time to do your own writing. And I was really missing that, especially since I started off my first career as a journalist. So I was really missing writing. And I became semi retired in 2017. And I found myself with a lot of extra time not only on my hands, but a lot of extra room in my brain for ideas to be floating around. And that was when I decided I think I’m going to try to write something again. I’d always loved mysteries. And I thought, okay, I’m just going to run with it. I came up with ideas, mostly when I was supposed to be asleep. And I started running with those ideas. And all of a sudden I had chapters instead of just a short story, and it just kept going. The Muse was with me and I was very lucky.
Natalie MacLean 6:36
Oh, that’s great. That’s great. My mom was a school teacher for 32 years and her mother before that, so I can empathize with how busy your life is, as a teacher, because it’s not just in the classroom, it’s doing all the correcting and grading of essays and so on outside. But that’s wonderful. So you’ve got into mystery. Now, before we dive into what cozy mysteries are, because I didn’t know till I came across you, take us to if you will the worst moment of your career. We will have a happy ending coming up. But do you remember any moments that, in particular, kind of a low point in the writing career?
Joy Ann Ribar 7:10
You know, I’m very fortunate that I haven’t had a lot of low points. So I guess what I would say, though, is there have been a couple of instances where I’ve been at book events where people have come up to me, and this is the worst, I would say for me. I’m short. So being short and stature, I don’t know why people who are adults think that they could pat an adult on the head. But oh, no. I know. I was actually patted on the head and said, oh, you wrote a book. Oh, good for you. I felt like I was in first grade again. And it felt humiliating. And it felt disrespectful. And maybe I was being way too sensitive about it. But those two individuals did not buy any of my books. They weren’t really interested in talking to me about my books, it was more like, oh, good for you, you wrote a book. And I should do that too. They said.
Natalie MacLean 8:09
How patronizing. Not just the pat but also what they said. Like there’s that old adage, or famous joke or whatever that I don’t know, somebody said to a famous writer, they were in brain surgery, you know, when I retire, I’m going to write a book. And of course, the writer says, when I retire, I’m going to be a brain surgeon. Its like people just have no idea that this is a profession that takes years of craft, and study and so on. But okay, so let’s turn it around to what has been the best moment of your writing career so far because I know more will come.
Joy Ann Ribar 8:41
There are so many good moments, I have been so fortunate. I have readers who they’re so kind. They relate to the characters. They come up with some of the best questions. They come up with future ideas of things that they would like to see maybe my characters doing or involved in. They talk about which characters they can relate to. And they’re just so kind and just genuinely respectful. And they respect the fact that you’re a writer. So the majority of readers, along with bookstore owners and librarians, they know and they understand what you have gone through to get something from an idea in your head to a published book. So I have so many good moments that right now I don’t have a best one and keep thinking the best is yet to come.
Natalie MacLean 9:37
Absolutely. That’s optimistic. Yeah, but I can relate to it because until I published a book, I didn’t realize just how deeply you can touch someone. I think it’s different from writing an article or certainly a blog post, although those are valid ways of communicating as well. But something about a book really touches people because they commit to being with you for whatever it takes. Six, eight hours, maybe longer sometimes. And just the notes and emails you can get back based on that deep experience is really heartening. Like I’ve had letters from one guy was on a submarine and was passing the time by reading my book. And it was helping, you know, someone decided to become a sommelier. And you just don’t realize until you actually publish a book that it’s pretty magical, that connection that you can have with readers.
Joy Ann Ribar 10:26
Yeah, absolutely. And it is really high praise when I have readers who say I have relocated myself into your world. And I can imagine myself in the bake shop, in the winery. I can imagine myself hanging out with your characters. And that’s just very high praise indeed to feel like you can give someone that fictional relocation. But to them, they’ve entered into another world that can be as real as the world that they live in.
Natalie MacLean 10:57
Absolutely. That’s a testament to the power of your writing. So that is high praise indeed. And, you know, I used to think okay what am I doing writing about wine? I don’t know if you’ve ever had thoughts of okay so I’m writing mysteries. What good is that doing in the world? I’m not a doctor, saving people. But in the end, giving people a sense of escape, a sense of joy, pleasure, even thrills, like with a mystery. That is a service, because, you know, life can be hard, and we work hard. And we have all kinds of things happening in our real lives. And then to be able to sit down with a book and lose yourself and come out of it with that feeling of having gone through some wonderful emotions or been in a different place from where you are. That is a service, I think.
Joy Ann Ribar 11:44
Yeah, exactly. I agree. And I think that we’re fortunate to live in a world where we have so much access to all kinds of writing. So if there’s a topic you want to hear about, or if you just want a vacation read or if there’s somebody’s memoir you want to read, you can just pick and choose and you have access to all of it. It’s like having the world at your fingertips.
Natalie MacLean 12:09
Absolutely. So easy these days. Now, let’s turn specifically to wine. How did you first get interested in wine, but you were mentioning you’re part of a community theatre. But what was that all about?
Joy Ann Ribar 12:21
Yes, I am part of a community theatre and my husband is as well. I’m on the acting side, I don’t do any of the behind the scenes stuff. So I get to be on stage, play other parts and have a really good time. And 2013 I was in a comedy called Drinking Habits. And I played a nun. The whole comedy takes place at a convent, and the convent is trying to stay afloat. The only way they can keep the content going is that two of these nuns decide that they’re going to harvest their grapes and their vineyard that they had normally just been growing for juice, and they’re making wine on the side. It’s great, was a very funny show. And through the course of that show, we were a cast of eight that gelled. We just had this perfect chemistry together, which was fantastic for the show and for the audience. But it was great for each other too, because we developed a very tight friendship with six of us in that group. And one of those people was really a wine enthusiast. And so he and his wife, and another group of four of us, became very fast friends, and we started trailing around with them to all different wineries in Wisconsin. Up until that point, I knew Wisconsin had two or three wineries. I didn’t know they had 50. And so we started going to different wineries, doing tastings just enjoying time together. And that was when I started to become very interested in trying to develop a palette and asking the wine owners and the wine growers a lot of questions about viticulture. Just, I don’t know. I like to learn and I just found it fascinating. And that was my window into wine which led me to put in a winery and my mysteries.
Natalie MacLean 14:21
I love it. And you know, it’s interesting because you may be aware of this Joy, but it was the religious orders, traditionally the monks the nuns, who kept alive the practice of viticulture like even through the dark ages and mediaeval times. They really moved forward the knowledge of winemaking like Dom Pérignon is the Cistercian monk. Famous Champagne is named. So you have a lot of that as history real history, but you know, in the play drinking habits. I love the playoff habit. That’s wonderful. So that got you into the wine as a passion. Let’s talk a little bit about a few other things before we get into the whole wine in your books. I’ve wanted to kind of figure out what cozy mysteries are. I know mysteries and thrillers and that sort of thing, but what defines a cozy mystery?
Joy Ann Ribar 15:14
Oh, sure, that’s a great question that I get asked a lot. So in a cozy mystery, the three basic rules are that there will be nothing graphic. So there’s no graphic violence, there’s no graphic sex, and there’s no graphic language. So some of my readers say it’s a mystery that I can have out on the coffee table when my grandmother or my granddaughter comes over to visit, which I think is a fun description. But also part of the cozy mystery is that you create a setting, and you create characters that are relatable. So you want your readers to become friends with your characters, and you want them to feel like you’re setting is a place that they want to be. They want to visit it. They can imagine themselves being there and enjoying that setting as much as they enjoy the plot and the clues to solving the mystery. You’re really striking a balance because you have a murder, but yet a cozy spin on this murder.
Natalie MacLean 16:18
A cozy spin, yes, without the guts and gore. But and it often takes place in small communities or quaint little towns, as you say you want to be there. You want to move there in your mind.
Joy Ann Ribar 16:30
Yeah, very much. It’s meant to be a place of escape. And I think that’s why I have plenty of readers from the Chicago area or other big cities. Maybe that’s why they refer to it as a vacation read, because you can take the vacation even without leaving home, which is nice. Yes. A lot of times you have like the beautiful rural settings. My books take place in a lake community. So surrounded by nature, much more quiet way of life. Everybody knows everybody. And small towns work really well, because that’s how a lot of times clues are able to be discovered to who did the crime because everyone knows everybody. So you have a lot more access to people who are willing to talk or tell what they saw or what they heard. So it’s the ideal location for a mystery of that genre.
Natalie MacLean 17:27
Right. It reminds me of Peter Mayle A Year in Provence, which is like the escape from the big city and corporate life down to starting your own winery. But that is everybody’s dream. But this has a lot of strong parallels. We’re out in the country with you solving a mystery, and I think almost able to put ourselves in your character’s shoes, Frankie Champagne, because she’s an amateur. She’s not a professional just like Peter’s character. He wasn’t a professional winemaker was just going to try to do it. I think that’s kind of thrilling too the whole amateur aspect.
Joy Ann Ribar 18:01
It is and it’s also a key to the cozy because there are so many different mystery genres. So if you had a police officer, certainly a mystery would be put together much differently because of what have to go according to how do the police do it and to be very authentic. Whereas my character has a lot of freedom. She can break a lot of rules and sometimes get herself in trouble and even get on the wrong side of the law. But again, because it’s a small town, she knows the sheriff personally. She might get in a little trouble. But it’s not the same as in a big city where they might actually just throw somebody in jail if they’re interfering with an investigation. There’s a little more forgiveness in small towns that happens. And yeah, the fact that she’s an amateur is really fun for readers because then the readers can kind of follow her through the story and they trail the clues with her and they trail the roadblocks and the obstacles that are put in front of her as well. Or I think it might be this person only to find out later on that you were just led astray by the author.
Natalie MacLean 19:14
I think that would lend itself to humour as well a little bit of the lightheartedness that goes along with cozy as opposed to those sort of dark, hard bitten gumshoe detective mysteries which are great for those who love that genre. But this is a lot sunnier even though you’ve got a murder at the centre of it. It’s wrapped in all of this coziness, as you said, and it reminds me to have Agatha Christie and Inspector Poirot and Miss Marple. Now hers sort of usually take place in an enclosed like manor house, but it’s still the same concept isn’t it. Like a confined sort of small countryside space where again, you know, all the characters so you can dive deeper into the character development and so on.
Joy Ann Ribar 19:56
Yeah, definitely, I think especially female authors in the mystery genre, a world of debt and gratitude to Agatha Christie. She was on the cutting edge of a genre and probably didn’t even know it. And the fact that all of her books still hold up today is a real testament to just how good of a writer she was. But how she was a groundbreaker. And again, I think it’s wonderful that we still have her work with us and that she was able to pave the way for the rest of us to break through. Because it was very hard for women to break into the mystery genre before Agatha Christie.
Natalie MacLean 20:41
Yeah, true. It does seem like, I hope this isn’t gender stereotyping, but it does seem like the hard bitten tough detective is more of the male perspective. And then this cozy, you’re more into the characters seems female that might be just grossly glazing over it. But for sure, Agatha Christie did create this whole thing that we love to follow along and try to solve the mystery along with her as one person after the next gets knocked off in the mystery house or the mansion. Yes. Do you still have to have a dark mind to kill off characters in your book? We’re just we want to know Joy, what type of person are you?
Joy Ann Ribar 21:19
I think you have to find out that you have it. I mean, I honestly didn’t think I had a dark bone in my body. And then I started writing mysteries. And pretty soon I started travelling down a black hole of well, let me buy a book about poisons so I can find out what kind of poisons are out there. What are they in? How do they interact? How are they detectable? Okay. And when you start doing internet searches, it becomes really interesting because you keep thinking, if I ever got in trouble with the government and the FBI came in and started looking at my computer history, I would look like. It wouldn’t be good for me let’s put it that way. I’d look like somebody who might be a serial killer or a terrorist. I don’t know. I mean, because of the authenticity, you really just start going down the rabbit hole of, oh, what is this weapon do and how does this weapon work? I mean I started reading autopsy reports and the I honestly never thought I’d be doing anything extremely bad. So yeah, there’s a dark side.
Natalie MacLean 22:23
Sure, sure. A small part of it. But I guess your husband was never concerned when he saw books about poison piling up on the kitchen table?
Joy Ann Ribar 22:30
Not yet. Now he makes jokes about it all the time. He does. If I bring anything interesting in the house, because every time I see something, I don’t know, like a garden implement I’ll say oh, I wonder how you could use that to kill some. I love that. Another interesting mode of murder instead of the tried and true.
Natalie MacLean 22:54
Oh, have you ever found unique tools or ways to kill off someone in a winery? Has that been part of any of your books yet?
Joy Ann Ribar 23:01
Not yet. Okay, I’m currently writing and in the edits in close to final edits on the book I’m working on now. But then the next one that I haven’t started writing but have started outlining is going to take place at a wine association convention. So we shall see. I have not quite figured out what the method of murder will be yet, but there will definitely be a murder. So I’m plotting that out right now. And I need to learn more about what goes on at wine conventions.
Natalie MacLean 23:38
We need to talk but off screen, off camera.
Joy Ann Ribar 23:42
That would be great. I would love it.
Natalie MacLean 23:47
Absolutely. A champagne bottle is absolutely deadly. You know, there’s 90 pounds per square inch of pressure in a champagne bottle before it’s open. That’s the equivalent of city bus tires. And if you open it when it’s warm, that pressure is even higher. So that’s why you get those exploding bottles at car rallies and so on. But even empty, it’s deadly. So maybe a champagne bottle. I’ll think because my mind is dark as well. That’s so great. I’ve been to those association meetings and thought of ways.
Joy Ann Ribar 24:18
I’m sure that that happens. I know we’re going to talk later about your memoir, but after reading your memoir, I can well imagine that I could have targeted a lot of people in your memoir.
Natalie MacLean 24:31
Thank you in solidarity. I’ll take them out one by one as well. You know, going down a rabbit hole but just the tanks that ferment wine are filled with co2. They are actually very dangerous and in real life some people have died if they fallen into it fermenting tank, which could be gruesome but it still fit in a cozy mystery because there’s not a lot of blood and guts you just get overcome by co2 sadly. But that could be a way to polish off a few rogue vintners or something in the future.
Joy Ann Ribar 24:59
That sounds like a really good means, especially, you know someone who has helped into the tank as they had a little help.
Natalie MacLean 25:09
Did he have a little help or just fall in? Right. So in a nutshell tell us what your Deep Lakes cozy mystery series is about, and especially the wine angle. I love the main character is named Frankie Champagne.
Joy Ann Ribar 25:24
Which just came to me again out of the blue when I was trying to get some sleep. So yeah, Frankie is, of course, central. She’s the main character, and she runs a bakery by day and a wine lounge by night. So her in Deep Lakes and downtown Deep Lakes, it’s a really great pairing because usually a bakery is open in the morning, and you get the wine lounge going sometime in the afternoon and into the evening. So it’s a great business partnership made in heaven almost. She is the baker and she’s also the vintner. So she also owns Bountiful Fruits Vineyard, and it’s a vineyard in an orchard. In Wisconsin, it’s very hard to rely just on grapes for winemaking. There’s a lot of times that a lot of people produce wine, that also includes fruits, and there’s some of each going on there. But before she owned her business, she went to school to be a journalist. And she really didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to be hired as a journalist so she went down another path. And after she opened her business, she started writing a lot of feature articles for the local paper, but they would never hire her to do anything deep. And she finds herself on the front end of a murder that happens in town. And she gets hired as a stringer as a freelance writer for a regional paper. And the regional editor says, you know, here’s your chance. Go cover the story. See what you can find out. Stay on top of the crime. You know, snoop around. And so that’s her entry into the world of crime. And she keeps that going throughout the whole series where she just gets better and better at being an investigative reporter. So her character really evolves. And she surrounds herself with a lot of women. She has an entire crew of women at the bakery. So a lot of the themes in my novels are about the resilience of women, the independence and feisty spirit of women, but also how women huddled around one another for support and encouragement, and even help in investigative reporting, if necessary. To also follow clues in the crimes. So there’s a lot of women friendships that are an underlying theme to the mystery.
Natalie MacLean 27:56
I love that angle. That’s great. So Frankie evolves, does her wine evolve too? Does it get better as the series goes on or is she always a top notch winemaker?
Joy Ann Ribar 28:05
No. Her wine is getting better. And maybe it has something to do with the author doing a lot more, doing more and more wine research and my own palate evolving. Very surprising to me. I kind of thought well I’m always going to like a wine that’s on the sweet side. But wow, has my palate evolved over 10 years of wine tasting, which I think is fabulous.
Natalie MacLean 28:28
Yes, you’re thorough with your research.
Joy Ann Ribar 28:31
Yes. And it’s the same thing with her. In fact, she’s been babying these Frontenac vines for about seven years in her vineyard. And now in this novel in this mystery that is going to be coming out in the fall, she’s finally at the point where she’s going to be able to harvest her Frontenacs. And now she’s going to make a wine of Wharton, where all of the grape juice has come from her own grapes, estate grapes, so to speak, even though I want to call her vineyard in a state is maybe a little stretch, but
Natalie MacLean 29:03
But you’re getting the terms in the wine of origin that she has control and owns the grapes. And Frontenac of course is a very hardy hybrid grape that would probably do well in a climate like Wisconsin.
Joy Ann Ribar 29:17
Indeed, it does. It’s a pretty popular red variety here. Pretty disease resistant and mildew resistance and I’m getting a little bit into a little bit into the winery side. We can do something that your listeners can actually say all I already know that thank you.
Natalie MacLean 29:35
That’s fine. Not everybody sort of knows Frontenac though that’s a little bit more obscure. But I’m familiar with it because it does tend like in Nova Scotia in Canada. They grow it because it’s got an even cooler climate than Ontario. So you need those hearty hybrids, as opposed to the vitas vinifera, which are the classic noble grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet and Merlot and so on to survive a tougher climate. What is the climate like in Wisconsin?
Joy Ann Ribar 30:01
We only can grow cold climate grapes. We have four distinct seasons. And so a winter here, a large part of winter is spent around zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is about
Natalie MacLean 30:16
Zero is, oh, that’s even below freezing. Yes, it’s below freezing. Way below because your 32 Fahrenheit is freezing.
Joy Ann Ribar 30:24
Thirty two is zero Celsius, right? Yes. I think zero is right around maybe negative 20 in Celsius. Yeah, that’s cold. Yes. And frequently, you know, colder than that. And of course, I mean, and wind chills, which I know you’re familiar with can make it even colder. We get up to around 85 degrees, which I think for you is around 29 Celsius.
Natalie MacLean 30:46
Right. Okay. Okay, quite a swing.
Joy Ann Ribar 30:50
We do get warm summers, but they’re short. So we have a short growing season. So here in Wisconsin, white variety grapes do a lot better, because we have a tendency toward a lot of acidity. And because they don’t have a lot of time to really get a good concentrate of sugar. So the white varieties do really well here. We have red varieties that do well, too. But we can’t grow anything like a Pinot. We don’t grow Chardonnay. I mean, none of those kinds of grapes grow here. So it’s all cold climate. So we owe all our thanks to this developer named Elmer Swenson, and he was a Wisconsinite who just wanted to make grapes for jelly and grape juice and he ended up developing a lot of cold climate varieties was hired by the University of Minnesota, which is our neighbouring state. They wanted to hire him for viticulture, and it just exploded into what is our wine industry are those climate varieties.
Natalie MacLean 31:56
You know because you think of Wisconsin, you think of beer, Milwaukee beer, not so much wines. Right. But how many wineries are there today in Wisconsin?
Joy Ann Ribar 32:04
There are about 100. So it’s a growing industry to be sure. When we started going to wineries about 10 years ago, there were about 50ish, and it just is continuing to grow. And a few years, like three years ago, there were maybe around 75 to 80. And now there’s 100.
Natalie MacLean 32:27
Wow. And of course for anyone who is geographically compromised like I am, I want to look it up, make sure I could situate it on a map. It’s the Midwest Wisconsin. And as you said, you border Minnesota, you border to Great Lakes Superior and Michigan and of course, Ontario borders Superior, but they don’t have a land border. But just so people kind of situated in their mind. So it’s going to be a cool climate for sure with that kind of terroir and lakes and so on. Yeah, yes. So let’s get back to your books. I always get distracted. As soon as you mentioned Frontenac, I lost track of where I was in my questions. So let me get back to what I meant to ask you more about the books. So how many books have you written in your Deep Lakes cozy mystery series?
Joy Ann Ribar 33:14
I have three right now and a prequel, which is a Christmas book. But it still take place, same town and same characters, but it’s the prequel to the very first in the series. So then the fourth in the series will be out in September.
Natalie MacLean 33:30
Oh, and do you have a title for that yet?
Joy Ann Ribar 33:32
Yes, it is called Deep Dire Harvest. That sounds good. I love it. And it is set during the autumn during the grape harvest season. So there is a focus and grapes coming to harvest and definitely a focus on Frankie’s Fontenacs, very alliterative. But then there’s also a murder that takes place. And there is a place where those things converge. They’re little separate plots, but I always try to get my plots to converge by the end of the story.
Natalie MacLean 34:11
All right, and I may be confusing details. But is there someone who is a birding expert in this book?
Joy Ann Ribar 34:17
Yes, there is. There’s an ornithologist. And so this book that I mean, she will be dead in the first three pages.
Natalie MacLean 34:26
I’m not giving it away. I wasn’t I wasn’t sure. Okay.
Joy Ann Ribar 34:30
And she isn’t there in relationship to the harvest. She’s there in relationship to migration. In Wisconsin, where we are we’re in a migratory zone where the spring migrators come through on their way up to Canada or north to nest, sometimes on the way to Minnesota, but they’re heading north to their nesting and breeding grounds. And then we have some that stop and stay. And then of course, then they come back through again in the Fall. So she’s there for the Fall migrating season. And just to give a little programme but unfortunately that doesn’t happen because she ends up dying but there’s a connection between her ornithology and what’s going on in Frankie’s vineyard.
Natalie MacLean 35:15
Wow. It’s interesting because starlings are the bane of winemakers. They love to eat the grapes, especially as they get right just before harvest. If the birder expert was helping wineries, we definitely want to kill them off because wineries can use all the help they can get when it comes to starlings. Like I’ve heard winemakers describe them as rats with wings. They really dislike those birds. So anyway.
Joy Ann Ribar 35:40
And unfortunately, they’re an invasive species too. I love birding. A lot of times my themes and my books are related to around things that I neither really interested in or already know a few things about. And because I’m a birder and I come from a family of birders, I said oh I have to have a birding mystery in here somewhere. And, yes, starlings are an invasive species. So it’s terrible that there isn’t something that can be done about them. But I know most of the venues around here, they put nets up and I’m sure that you hear about that everywhere. I’m sure they must have to put nets up over there grapes everywhere just to keep the birds out.
Natalie MacLean 36:20
They do. And like I’ve been, of course, to wine country many times during harvest, and you’ll see these large clouds murmurations or whatever of the starlings just, and they like almost dive together trying to get the grapes. And vintners have tried various techniques like one had a cannon in the vineyard and would like fire off these to try to scare the birds. But after they realized what it was they started using it as a roost. So they were just flutter a little bit and then settled down on the cannon again. It was like very saucy, very, very saucy. And then another winemaker I know in Niagara has hawks. And those are a bit of a deterrent because they’re predators. So even just the shape of the hawk wingspan will sometimes get the starlings to move on. But please don’t stop here for lunch kind of thing.
Joy Ann Ribar 37:12
Right. It’s tough. It’s a hard thing. It is tough because you can deter them for the short term, but they’re relentless. And they’re smart enough to figure out that, oh, this was just a ruse. We’ve got this figured out. Nothing’s really hurting us here.
Natalie MacLean 37:30
Right, whatever. And apparently it was someone who thought it’d be a bright idea to bring all the songbirds of Europe to North America and populate Central Park with them. You might have heard this and that’s why we have starlings here. They weren’t originally native here.
Joy Ann Ribar 37:45
But no, they weren’t. And same thing with English sparrows. They’re also invasive. And they’re just terrible birds. I mean, I feed a lot of birds. So I’m chasing the starlings away. I could do it all day long, though. You know, I see I’m poking at my song birds or like flying at them to get my song birds off the food or even going into their nest cavities that I just.
Natalie MacLean 38:12
Down with birds. Well invasive birds, yes. Okay, another rabbit hole. This one with wings.
Natalie MacLean 38:24
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Joy. Here my take aways. I love learning what differentiates a cozy mystery from other types of mysteries. I mean, who knew there were so many sub genres, and I love that Joy’s novels are set in wine country. I also didn’t know much about Wisconsin wines until I spoke to her. And now I’m curious to try them and even more so to visit such a beautiful state. In the shownotes you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Joy, links to her books and website, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free online class called The Five Food and Wine Pairing Mistakes that can Ruin your Dinner and How to Fix Them Forever. Happily ever after. That’s also a trope. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie MacLean.com/192. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Joy Ribar. In the meantime, if you missed episode 102 go back and take a listen. I chat about another cool climate wine region, Nova Scotia, with Benjamin Bridge winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 39:54
To be a family that is wine industry’s best kept secret as well.
Unknown Speaker 39:59
How does those connect? So you’ve got I try to get more water flowing. But how is that directly impacting on the vines and the grapes?
Natalie MacLean 40:04
Jean-Benoit Deslauriers 40:06
It’s funny that you use the word connect because we are in two valleys. They actually connect to the Bay of Fundy. As the water goes up and down, goes 70 metres a day, it acts as an air pump, and it pushes the air through those valleys, so it transforms those valleys into corridors or channels of moderation. This unbelievable moderating effect coming from that constant influx of air, it translates into a ripening context that is absolutely unique. Because our grapes can ripen in a way that will protect the acidity and unspoiled fashion and also ensure that the sugar content doesn’t creep up too fast.
Natalie MacLean 40:53
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps zesty white wine from Wisconsin.
Natalie MacLean 41:17
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.